Who's Behind The Curtain

Some sex workers just sell the sexual act while others claim to offer “true love.” But whatever the proposition is, it’s for money. We talked to a prostitute and an ex-gigolo about their work in the Dutch sex business.

Who's Behind The Curtain

Ruby* came to the Netherlands from Romania when she was 18 years old. She is now 24 and has worked in several Dutch cities as a prostitute. Her parents don’t know her occupation.

At 11 a.m. on a Wednesday she was sitting on a stool, her legs up against the window, waiting for a client to arrive. Her room was heated up to approximately 24 degrees. She only wore a tiny black bikini and high heels.

In one hand she held her smartphone and in the other a cigarette. Every now and then she opened the window to throw a cigarette on the street. Next to the continuously mumbling TV was the air freshener but the lavender scent wasn’t enough to eliminate the smell of sex in the room. The thin, brunette, tough-looking girl kept gazing at the street through several thick layers of black mascara to look for customers.

Patrick is from Rotterdam and was a gigolo for five years. The 25-year-old started selling his services after sleeping with a woman who unexpectedly paid him for the act. It was as easy as that.

His confident voice and seductive eyes are only two reasons that helped him to get his job. The brown-haired man also appears as an honest, straightforward guy, who immediately makes others feel comfortable. His thin, tall stature worked in his favor as an attention grabber.

As most people’s only contact with Dutch sex workers is outside their windows, we decided to step inside and get our 20-minutes worth. We reveal the people behind the curtain.

Q&A

How do you pick your clients?

Ruby: If I don’t like their face or if they don’t look clean, I don’t open my door. I also have regular clients; they always come to me.

Patrick: I never put a profile on the Internet and waited for the customers to find me. I always went to hotels and I found potential customers there, who were always women. So, I could choose whomever I wanted to. If she was not interesting or I didn’t like her I wouldn’t have accepted her as a customer.

How long are your workdays?

Ruby: I work every day from morning to night. Sometimes I don’t even sleep. My window is open 24 hours. Sometimes I spend the night here (points at the bed in the back of the room).

Patrick: I had one customer a day but the date could last from three hours up to three days.

How much money do you earn?

Ruby: I can’t talk about specific prices. But I can tell you I pay 700 euros to rent the window for five days. Sometimes I don’t have anything left after I’ve paid the rent. And I don’t have a pimp, I have to do it all by myself.

Patrick: For two hours my service cost 300 euros. It was quick money. You work for three days a week and earn approximately 1,500-3,000 euros. I am not saying it was easy but it was quick. If you have many regular customers you can live from this work.

How many clients do you have a day?

Ruby: (laughs). A lot! I can’t count them.

Patrick: Most of the time I had 3-5 customers a week. They were customers that hired me for three entire days and I also had regular customers.

With the Internet at hand it’s so easy to have sex, why do your clients come to you?

Ruby: Some girls don’t give their men enough sex. Other men want to try new stuff or they’re just exhausted from their life. For some clients it’s not all about “fucking,” they tell us about their lives. But most men are married or have a girlfriend. Sometimes they are really old.

Patrick: Most of my clients were hardworking businesswomen, who had no time for a relationship. A gigolo is a perfect match for a woman like that. She chooses whenever she wants me to come or leave. But I never worked with really old women, over sixty years old.

Do you have a relationship at the moment?

Ruby: I have a boyfriend. We met here (she pointed at the window), but he wasn’t a customer. He passed by the window and we started talking. We have been together for some years.

Patrick: I have a girlfriend.

How does he/she feel about your work?

Ruby: He has no problem with it.

Patrick: I tried being a gigolo and in a relationship at the same time but it wasn’t successful. When I told my girlfriend in the first week she said, “Ok no problem.” But then jealousy emerged and that’s when the problems started. I can understand if I were in a relationship with a prostitute and she would say: “I am going to work.” Then I would know exactly what was going to happen and I wouldn’t like it.

Do you ever consider leaving your job?

Ruby: Yes. I love kids and I would like to work with them some day. I can also imagine going to school again.

Patrick: I had to make a choice between life and work, because being a gigolo and having a relationship was a bad combination. It was my own choice. It’s been two months since I quit my job. I am happy with what I have but sometimes I miss my job. I miss the money and the lifestyle. Every prostitute knows what I am talking about. I am like on a rehab for a gigolo.

Emotions

Many people would never consider an occupation in the sex business, simply because they can’t imagine what it is like selling sexual pleasure. But for Patrick, his job was about more than sex. He first had to establish an emotional connection with his clients. “I never sold sex. I am not a woman behind a window. When a woman hires a guy it is a different story. It’s about love, the feeling of true love.”

Patrick continues by explaining that most women want more than just sex. Some of his clients asked him to go on dates, and they even flew him into Paris and London for a few days to spend time together. Of course, his clients took care of the travel costs. This lifestyle stands in stark contrast to Ruby’s.

She believes that no female prostitute is in the business for pleasure. “I don’t feel anything when I have sex. I have no pleasure with clients. Some men even make me feel bad about my job.” She explained that some clients whisper weird phrases in her ears but by now she is used to ignoring them. For this reason, she refused to repeat them, leaving her interviewers guessing.

At the end of the interview, Ruby also had a question for us: “As normal girls, what do you think of us?”

At first we were speechless by the question. After stumbling over our words for 30 seconds out of fear we might insult her, we told her we could never do this job. An honest answer. We can’t imagine selling our body to please a man for 20 minutes and then moving on to the next customer.

*We had to change her name for privacy reasons.

 

By Valia Papadopoulou and Anna-Lena Sachs

 

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An Unforgettable Experience

After finishing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, University of Groningen, Alka Tiessink decided to travel for a year before beginning a master’s degree. While visiting the city of Pokhara in Nepal about a month ago, she faced the most frightening experience of her life.

‘We were meditating and suddenly, everything started to move. I didn’t know what was happening. It took me a lot of time to realize it was an earthquake. Although it was around one minute, I felt it like ten.’

After the earthquake, she found a safe spot and informed her father that she was fine. She was able to be in constant contact with her parents and they were often her only source for updates.

The days following the initial earthquake were also tense. ‘We were sleeping with the light on, doors open, and even wearing our shoes so that we would be ready to jump in and run. We practiced our way out day and night with shoes or flip-flops. I was constantly wearing my money belt with all my money, passport and insurance papers inside’, she recalls.

Alka tried to help as much as possible while she was there. She signed up as a volunteer at several hospitals, but by then, they were not looking for any volunteers. Despite her willingness to stay and help, her family pleaded for her to return to the Netherlands – six days after the earthquake, she abandoned her initial plan to stay for an entire month.

She and four other Dutch people who were also in Nepal stayed up all night and organized their trip back home. In the morning, they left all of their belongings for the locals and took a taxi to the airport.

Although they asked the taxi driver not to drive through the city centre, he overlooked their request and gave them a ride downtown. ‘He wanted to make us realise that we need to help them’, Alka says. ‘It was heart breaking to see him trying his best to keep us there. We saw everything you see on TV, but I felt happy that I saw what exactly happened. It feels like you leave those people, who can’t leave Nepal since it’s their home, with nothing.’ Today, Alka is safe in the Netherlands, but her thoughts are still with Nepal. She organised her own small-scale fund raising to help: she is sending the money directly to the people that she met there.

‘After a week of being home, I am slowly getting out of survival mode’, she says. ‘My body wants to sleep, but my mind is still awake. However, when things are shaking, with every kind of vibration, my eyes open wide. That’s something I still have.’

 

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Disaster in Nepal

Aftershocks are still being felt in Nepal following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Asian nation in April. For two Nepali RUG students and one alumnus who was there at the time, raising funds for disaster relief is a way to help, as well as to cope with the aftermath.

 ‘At first, I thought it might be a joke’, Pragyi Shrestha recalls. ‘I checked the news on the Internet, and it was true. I vainly tried to contact my family. There was no phone connection. I didn’t know if they were alive or dead. I was really scared and hopeless.’

Pragyi, a 24-year-old RUG master’s student in the medical and pharmaceutical drug innovation program, is from Kathmandu, Nepal. She finally managed to talk with her parents eight hours after the first earthquake hit. She says that those eight hours of unawareness were a nightmare for her.

‘When we finally spoke on the phone, my mother told me that everyone was safe, but I could still hear the fear in her voice’, Pragyi says.

In shock

Pragyi’s friend, Suruchi Nepal, is 27 years old and also from Kathmandu. She is currently a PhD student in medical microbiology at the University of Groningen, and she went through a similar situation.

‘I was in shock. I remember that I couldn’t sleep or eat for four nights in a row. How could I eat when I didn’t know my family’s situation? I felt helpless and alone’, Suruchi says.

Suruchi and Pragyi said that Nepal’s rural areas faced the most damage. The majority of those areas’ houses are made from mud and stone, so it is unlikely that they could have withstood such a strong earthquake. Both in the capital and outside of it, numerous historical landmarks and temples collapsed.

‘The most depressing thing is that we lost our people. But also, in one moment, our whole history turned into dust’, Pragyi says.

‘Our economy was already weak before the earthquake. Now, it is devastated. It was mostly relying on tourism and on our unique architecture. The earthquake struck both of them. We are a poor nation and now we have nothing. Our people just want to survive’, Suruchi says.

Nepal’s natural disaster didn’t end after the first earthquake. Several aftershocks followed, and a 5.7 magnitude earthquake occurred several days ago.

Process of losing

‘People had just started going back to their normal lives before the second earthquake. It was overwhelming for them. Now, fear is deep inside our heart every day. We lost so many things. It’s hard to accept it and the saddest thing is that we are still in the process of losing’, Suruchi says.

Nepal’s government was not prepared for such a disaster, Pragyi explains. People are disappointed with the way their leaders have dealt with the situation. Nevertheless, they are both proud of Nepal’s police and army. Those people risked their own lives and entered dangerous zones in order to help; some have even died in doing so.

The two girls thought that they also had the obligation to help.

‘Every time I would close my eyes, I would recall all those people crying for help. I knew I should do something. Going there wouldn’t be of any value, I have no skills or money to help the situation’, Pragyi says. They thought the best way to help from the Netherlands would be to initiate a fundraiser and use their own personal network to collect as much money as possible for the victims.

‘We are also afraid of an epidemic disease right now. Our professors Jan Maarten van Dijl and Han Moshage helped us to organize it. We placed Nepalese lunch in the hospital’s canteen in exchange for donations. Aat Wartena, who is responsible for the canteen, agreed to place it in the menu and everything went according to the plan. Thanks to those people, we felt like we are not alone anymore. We had moral support; they could feel what we were going through’, Suruchi says.

‘We designed a brochure, Call for HELP, and shared it through the Internet in order to collect funds. We use the people we know to spread our message. We are planning to send the money to two associations in Nepal and help them cover the basic needs of the victims. So far, we have collected around 5,500 euros’, Pragyi says.

As time goes by, people in Nepal are facing new fears. Monsoon rains will hit Nepal in June and July and make things worse for both the victims and the volunteers.

EPIDEMIC ‘Sometimes, it rains for a whole week. Imagine people sleeping outdoors without even a tent. We are also afraid of an epidemic disease right now’, Pragyi says.

‘Lack of wood makes it even harder for people to burn the bodies, and this can also contribute to a disease’s spread. Even when they bury the bodies, they are very careful because they are afraid of polluting the water. The situation is very bad’, Suruchi adds.

Both young women just hope that the country will recover soon. They are glad that people from all over the world immediately travelled to Nepal to volunteer.

‘I am thankful for all the support and positive energy I have received, especially from people here who are trying to help in every possible way’, Suruchi says.

‘I hope we will remain united as a nation in the next years. We are brave, and we will find a way to deal with it’, Pragyi concludes.

If you would like to contribute to Suruchi and Pragyi’s fundraiser, contact Suruchi at s.nepal@umcg.nl.

 

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